The New York Times has revealed today that the FBI were warning Republicans about Russian influence on U.S. politics since as early as 2012.
Specifically, the FBI spoke to GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who is one of Moscow’s most prominent American defenders, about the possibility that Russian spies were targeting him for recruitment as an “agent of influence” to shape policies in favor of the Kremlin agenda.
In 2012 Rohrabacher was taken to a secure room in the Capitol, where an FBI agent informed him of the possibility that the Russians were trying to use him to infiltrate the U.S. government.
In a telephone interview with The New York Times yesterday, Rohrabacher explained that the meeting focused on his contact with one member of the Russian Foreign Ministry in particular, who he had met on a trip to Moscow.
“They were telling me he had something to do with some kind of Russian intelligence. [Moscow] looked at me as someone who could be influenced.”
Law enforcement officials have made clear they do not suspect Rohrabacher of intentionally colluding with the Russians. They believe he was being used as an unwitting pawn in their spy game against America.
Rohrabacher was implicated in this week’s Russia-related drama when the Washington Post reported on an audio recording of Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, saying last year, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”
Rohrabacher happens to be one of President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters on Capitol Hill, and is also vehemently opposed to economic sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea.
He also allegedly claims to have a lost a drunken army-wrestling match with then future Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 1990s.
Unsurprisingly Rohrabacher has dismissed allegations that Russia influenced the 2016 election:
“Did they try to influence our election? We have tried to influence their elections, and everybody’s elections. The American people are being fed information that would lead them to believe that we need to be in a warlike stance when it comes to Russia.”
Thankfully Rohrabacher’s days in congress are numbered; he is facing what will likely be the most difficulty re-election campaign of his 28-year political career.
His main opponent is the extremely well-funded Harley Rouda, and some Republicans are beginning to wish he wouldn’t run at all in order to avoid spending huge amounts of money on a man who is clearly a bit of a doofus.
Rouda has already begun calling Rohrabacher “Putin’s favorite congressman.”
Rohrabacher’s alleged ties to Russia, and the fact that senior Republicans knew about it, begs the question: who else is a known Russian stooge? How many Republicans have been compromised by unsavory ties to foreign governments? Who else in the Republican party is complicit in sabotaging American democracy?
And, most importantly: why haven’t senior Republicans come forward and named those they suspect of shady involvement with foreign governments?
Republicans are clearly happy to play politics with our national security, and that is unacceptable.